Get ready for an immersive 14-day itinerary that will take you through almost every region in Croatia. It begins in the culturally rich capital of Zagreb, continues through the Istrian Peninsula, and finishes with an epic journey down the beautiful Dalmatian Coast. You'll end the trip in Dubrovnik, one of the most awe-inspiring ancient fortress cities in Europe.

Highlights

  • Explore Zagreb, one of the most beautiful capital cities in Europe
  • Visit Roman ruins and Venetian architecture on the Istria Peninsula
  • Marvel at the cascading waterfalls of Plitvice National Park
  • Swim in emerald lagoons at Krka National Park
  • Tour the historic cities and islands of Croatia's Dalmatian Coast

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Croatia - Tour Zagreb Zagreb
Day 2 Transfer to Istria - Visit Motovun & Rovinj Poreč
Day 3 Transfer to Pula Pula
Day 4 Transfer to Opatija and Plitvice Lakes National Park Plitvice Lakes National Park
Day 5 Plitvice Lakes - Transfer to Zadar Zadar
Day 6 Explore Zadar Zadar
Day 7 Visit Krka National Park - Transfer to Trogir Trogir
Day 8 Trogir to Split Split
Day 9 Transfer to Korčula Korčula
Day 10 Explore Korčula Korčula
Day 11 Transfer to Dubrovnik - Visit Pelješac Peninsula & Ston Dubrovnik
Day 12 Explore Dubrovnik Dubrovnik
Day 13 Day Trip to Cavtat or Koločep Island Dubrovnik
Day 14 Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Croatia - Tour Zagreb

Zagreb

Welcome to Croatia!

Boasting a population of around 800,000 people, Zagreb is both the capital and largest city in Croatia. This is a gem of a European city, at once historic and new. It's filled with leafy green parks and gothic/neo-renaissance buildings, yet there's also modern shopping complexes, outdoor malls, and endless dining and drinking options. 

After checking into your hotel, you can head out on a guided walking tour of the historic heart of the city. This involves walking from the main square to Zagreb's Upper Town and passing through local markets before reaching St. Mark Square.  

Or you can visit one of Zagreb's many galleries and museums. These include the Art PavilionMuseum of Contemporary ArtArcheological Museum, and the Nikola Tesla Technical Museum. One unique option is the Museum of Broken Relationships, which exhibits personal items from failed relationships with accompanying stories detailing their significance. One item on display is an ax a woman used to chop up the furniture of an unfaithful boyfriend. Believe it or not, this is Zagreb's most popular museum.

Day 2: Transfer to Istria - Visit Motovun & Rovinj

Rovinj

Istria is one of the most beautiful regions of Croatia. This peninsula on the Mediterranean is a fertile wine-producing area also known for its rich history, olive oil, and wild truffles. There are a number of well-developed tourist towns on the western coast of Istria including UmagNovigrad, and Poreč. The star, though, is Rovinj. This charming port town sits on a little headland and is denoted by cobbled streets, ancient buildings, and the hilltop Church of St. Euphemia whose steeple is the centerpiece of the skyline. 

First, you will visit Motovun, a medieval hilltop town in central Istria. Dating to the 13 century, Motovun is a medieval gem. This ancient Istrian acropolis is perched on a 908-foot (277-meter) hill overlooking the Mirna River Valley.

Leading from Motovun's Venetian-inspired town square up to the top of the hill is the longest staircase on the Istrian Peninsula, which boasts 1,052 steps. Walk up it and you'll be treated to 360° views of the vineyards and forest outside the village walls. The vineyards produce Croatia's famed Teran and Malvasia wines while the forests are home to hidden treasure: black and white wild truffles, which are prized among foodies across the globe.

You will then transfer southwest from Motovun to Rovinj and arrive in time to explore the town before the sun goes down.

Day 3: Transfer to Pula

Pula Arena, the Roman amphitheater

After breakfast, you'll transfer to the southern tip of Istria and the city of Pula. Its strategic location on the end of the peninsula means it has been occupied many times throughout the centuries by everyone from the Romans to the Allied Forces in WWII. While Pula is known for its beaches and harbor, it's most famous for its Roman amphitheater, the Pula Arena, which dates back to the first century ACE. 

After checking into your hotel you can head out and explore the city. No doubt you'll make a beeline for the arena, which is one of the 10 largest colosseums the Romans ever built. But that isn't all—there are many other ruins you can visit here. These include the Arch of the Sergii—an ancient Roman arch dating to 29 BCE—and the Temple of Augustus, a Roman temple built in 2 BCE.

Day 4: Transfer to Opatija and Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Today you'll leave Istria for inland Croatia. It's a four-hour drive to your ultimate destination of Plitvice Lakes National Park, one of the great natural attractions of the country. This protected area is famous for its 16 terraced lakes and myriad waterfalls the likes of which you won't find anywhere else on earth. On your way to the park, you can stop and visit Opatija. 

Opatija is a beautiful little coastal town known for its Lungomare, a waterfront promenade. The town was actually built in the 19th century as a summer resort for Austro-Hungarian aristocracy. You can see remnants of this era in the elegant villas nestled in the lowland Mediterranean forest along the coast. 

After touring Opatija, you will continue to your accommodations in Plitvice.

Day 5: Plitvice Lakes - Transfer to Zadar

Discover Plitvice Lakes

Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Plitvice Lakes National Park is a must-visit for any traveler to Croatia. This is more than a park—it's a storybook locale conjured out of a romantic dream. Comprised of 16 terraced lakes over a total area of 114 square miles (296 sq. km), its glassy waters are as emerald green as the forest that surrounds it. The real stars of the show, however, are the cascading waterfalls that plunge over the terraces in seemingly every corner of Plitvice. 

There are many hiking routes within the park that follow along wooden boardwalks, and you can explore them on your own or with a private guide. The benefit of opting for a guide is that he/she will be able to offer insight into the region as well as lead you to the most interesting areas of the park. However you choose to explore Plitvice, it's best to arrive early in the morning before the massive tourist crowds arrive and the boardwalks turn into a traffic jam.

After enjoying Plitvice, you'll hop back in your vehicle and transfer about 1.5 hours south to the coastal city of Zadar. Known for its well-preserved historic center and gorgeous Dalmatian sunsets, Zadar is the perfect city to arrive at after a day in the wilderness.

Day 6: Explore Zadar

The historic streets of Zadar

You're in for a treat as today you'll explore an often-overlooked star of Dalmatia: Zadar. This is the largest city on Croatia's northern coast, and there's a lot to see and do. You can stroll the marble streets of Zadar's famous Old Town, once the mightiest fortress city in the Venetian Republic. Beyond the Venetian gates in the city's stone walls, you can see examples of Roman and Byzantine architecture in the form of the 1st century remains of the Roman Forum and the 9th century Church of St Donat

But Zadar is as much about the new as it is about the old. Case in point: two unique art installations situated on Zadar's waterfront. The first is the Monument to the Sun. This 72-foot (22-meter) disc is the brainchild of Croatian artist Nikola Bašić and reflects light patterns off its smooth surface as the sun goes down. The second is the Sea Organ. Also the work of Bašić, this architectural sound art utilizes tubes located underneath waterfront steps to transform sea waves into organ music.

After touring the city by day, come to the waterfront to witness one of Dalmatia's most famously beautiful sunsets. During this time, you can marvel at the light shows of the Monument to the Sun and the singing waves of the Sea Organ. Afterward, be sure to partake of Zadar's delectable seafood.

Day 7: Visit Krka National Park - Transfer to Trogir

Skradinski Buk, at Krka National Park

Prepare for an unforgettable day trip. In the morning you'll transfer one hour from Zadar to Krka National Park, which, besides Plitvice, is home to Croatia's other drop-dead gorgeous network of waterfalls. As if the stunning beauty of these falls isn't enough, you'll also be able to take a dip in one of the lagoons as Krka is the only national park in Croatia where swimming is allowed.

In total there are seven waterfalls in this 54 square-mile (139 square-km) national park. They're formed by the Krka River, and a 1.5-mile (2.5-km) boardwalk follows a circuitous route through Mediterranean forest around the falls. You can complete the path in well under an hour, and on this easy walk, you'll pass by gullies and over river islands featuring prime lookout spots in which to view the falls. 

Skradinski Buk is the final of the seven waterfalls, and mother nature saved the best for last. The falls here cascade 78 feet (24 meters) down into a wide emerald lagoon. At the base of this postcard locale, visitors will find restaurants, snack stands, ice cream shops, and more, and it's even allowed to take a dip in the lagoon waters.

After your day enjoying Krka, you'll transfer about an hour south to Trogir. At more than 2,000 years old, Trogir is one of Croatia's other Unesco World Heritage Sites and a great example of a beautiful island fortress town. It's a small place, and it doesn't take longer than about five minutes to walk from any point in Trogir's historic center to reach the sea. 

After checking into your hotel, feel free to get out and explore. Stroll the narrow cobbled streets, enjoy the romanesque architecture and medieval fortress walls, and don't be surprised if you hear the harmonies of Trogir's famous Dalmatian Accapella singers carrying through the air.

Day 8: Trogir to Split

Diocletian’s Palace, in Split

In the morning you'll transfer about 30 minutes east of Trogir to the historic port city of Split. Travelers come from far and wide to walk along Split's Riviera-esque waterfront and tour the impressive Diocletian’s Palace, located in the heart of Split's historic center. This "city within a city" is a maze of narrow alleyways within stone fortifications originally built for Emperor Diocletian back at the turn of the fourth century ACE.

The palace has changed its appearance over the centuries as a medieval city grew up around it, but it's still one of the best-preserved examples of Roman architecture in Croatia. In point of fact, it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There's nothing quite like strolling the narrow stone streets inside the palace fortifications and ducking into little cafés/bakeries/bars for a cinnamon roll, ice cream cone, or a glass of wine. 

You can enjoy Split on your own or stroll the streets on a guided tour of the city. A tour is ideal as the guide will be able to point out all the hidden gems within the walls of Diocletian’s Palace.

Day 9: Transfer to Korčula

Korčula

It's time to take the party offshore, to Croatia's gorgeous islands in the Adriatic Sea. The destination today is Korčula, an island with a rich history. There were settlers here in the neolithic age, but the first colony was founded by ancient Greeks around the 6th century BCE. It fell under Byzantine and then Venetian rule, as the island was valued for its strategic location and dense pine forests. You can see remnants of its former glory in the medieval stone fortifications that encircle Korčula's historic Old Town.

You'll arrive in this Old Town, which is currently awaiting UNESCO World Heritage status. After checking into your hotel you can head out and explore, either on foot or perhaps on a rented bicycle, traveling from the town center to one of the secluded beaches on the island. You also might want to sample Korčula's delicious Grk and Pošip varietals of white wine.

Day 10: Explore Korčula

Stroll the fortress walls of Korčula

Today you can get out and explore Korčula. There are many historic sites in town worth visiting, the first of course being Korčula's famous fortress walls and battlements. There's also St. Mark’s Cathedral, a 15th century gothic/renaissance church built out of limestone. 

Venturing beyond the historic town is also a great way to spend a day. The island itself is 107 square miles, and the most pleasant and scenic way to cover the most ground is on a bicycle as you ride down the country roads. Easily accessible from the town of Korčula is the village of Lumbarda, where you'll find a nice sandy beach (for Croatian standards) and a winery. 

Speaking of which, Korčula is not all about the great outdoors; the island is also known for producing great white wines. There are some good wineries you can visit in town and also on the eastern tip of the island as well as in the center and on the west side. No matter how you decide to spend the day, know that the best activities involve lazing on beautiful Mediterannean beaches, snacking on local cuisine, and indulging in an adult beverage or two.

Day 11: Transfer to Dubrovnik - Visit Pelješac Peninsula & Ston

Ston

Today you'll leave Korčula and transfer to the Pelješac Peninsula. This is the second biggest peninsula in the country, and here you'll find the fascinating medieval city of Ston. First-time visitors will be taken aback by the 3,937-foot (1200-meter) wall that runs from the mountains down through Ston to the water. 

This stone fortification was constructed in the 15th century to defend the town, as Ston's location surrounded by three different seas made it highly sought after by invading forces. Aside from the iconic walls, Ston is famous for having the oldest active saltworks in the Mediterranean and for its long tradition of growing oysters and mussels. 

One other thing that Pelješac is known for is red wine, as the whole peninsula is a grape-growing area. Pelješac is home to the most famous red wine varietal in Croatia, which is named after the region where the grape is grown: Dingač. The vineyards here sit on hillsides that slope at a 70° angle down to the water. Over the last couple of years, more and more family-owned wineries have been popping up in the region. Should you choose, you can take a tour of one of these wineries and sample Dingač's famous reds.

Afterward, you'll transfer to the nearby island of Korčula, which boasts a rich history. There were settlers here in the neolithic age, but the first colony was founded by ancient Greeks around the 6th century BCE. It then fell under Byzantine and then Venetian rule as the island was valued for its strategic location and dense pine forests. You can see remnants of Korčula's former glory in the medieval stone fortifications that encircle its historic Old Town.

You'll arrive in this Old Town, which is currently awaiting UNESCO World Heritage status. After checking into your hotel you can head out and explore, either on foot or perhaps on a rented bicycle, traveling from the town center to one of the secluded beaches on the island. You also might want to sample Korčula's delicious Grk and Pošip varietals of white wine.

After enjoying Korčula, you'll transfer about three hours southeast to the historic coastal fortress city of Dubrovnik. 

Day 12: Explore Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik

Known as the "Adriatic Pearl," Dubrovnik might be the most attractive city in all of Croatia. While there's evidence of settlements as far back as the Byzantine era, this area only came into its own in the 12th and 13th centuries when it was under the rule of the Venetians. Throughout the middle ages, it was a fortress port encircled by stone walls and filled with baroque churches and renaissance/gothic palaces that still stand today.

There's no better way to pass the time in Dubrovnik than to spend an afternoon strolling its historic 75-foot walls and smooth, limestone-paved streets while marveling at the spirit of the city. A tour with a local guide will be that much more rewarding, as he or she will lead you to the best spots and offer insight into Dubrovnik's culture and history. Just know that you won't be the only one touring this city—the unrivaled atmosphere and beauty of Dubrovnik draws hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. 

Be sure to take a break from your walking tour to sample the local cuisine. Dubrovnik's location on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro means there is some unique fusion cuisine here as well as downright wild fast food options (think octopus burgers). But you can also find good-old Italian-inspired comfort food like pasta in meat sauce, black risotto, and basic but hearty meat-and-potatoes dishes.

Day 13: Day Trip to Cavtat or Koločep Island

Cavtat

Today you'll have two options for day trips. First, you can choose to head about 30 minutes southeast of Dubrovnik to the small town of Cavtat. This gorgeous harbor village enjoys a postcard-perfect location nestled in a peninsular cove on the Adriatic. It's also got quite a bit of history. It was founded in the 7th century as a haven for ancient-Greek Epidaurum refugees after their colony was sacked by invaders. Enjoyable activities here include strolling the waterfront promenade, lazing on pebbly beaches, and whiling away the hours in cafés and restaurants.

After or before Cavtat, depending on your preferences, you will travel a few minutes further southeast to Sokol Tower. Constructed partially on a cliff sometime in the 14th century, this is one of the most impressive fortresses in the Dubrovnik area. Sokol Tower was used as a defensive structure, housing soldiers, commanders, and an arsenal. It was abandoned in the 18th century but was rebuilt in 2013. Today visitors can tour the fortress and see the commander's quarters, barracks, and view a collection of archeological artifacts from the medieval era.

Another day-trip option is to visit one of the islands in the Elaphiti archipelago. One of the nicest is Koločep, the southernmost inhabited island in Croatia.

At just 2.4 square miles and boasting a population of 100 people, there are no cars on Koločep. The best way to get around is on a scenic hike or even sea kayaking around the island. The latter is highly enjoyable due to the number of beaches, coves, and hidden coastal caves to explore. As an added bonus, there's a great little family-run restaurant on Koločep that serves the best grilled calamari in Croatia.

Day 14: Departure

Farewell, Croatia

After breakfast, you'll check out of your hotel, transfer to the airport, and make all connecting flights home. This concludes your grand Croatian adventure. Come back soon!

Map

Map of Best of Croatia: Istria to Dalmatia -14 days
Map of Best of Croatia: Istria to Dalmatia -14 days